I got this first season because of the David Simon link, being a big Wire fan I thought this would be interesting as it's set in B'more too.
The first thing that hits you is how much of this show is in the wire, the murder board, the cops tricks to get confessions and about half of the cast but significantly younger, a young valcek was the weirdest but there are so many.
Then you start to notice people from OZ and the sopranos, guest appearances by major stars.
Essentially it is like the wire just focussing on the Homicide unit (stating the obvious I know) but it has the documentary style of the shield, the shaky camera work, the final scene set to a cool piece of music.
As for sons of anarchy there is an episode about halfway through season two which Kurt Sutter must have been watching one day when he decided to write sons.
Once you get over the fact that it looks a bit dated it is genuinely funny and you quickly become invested in the characters. Ok so it may not be quite as slick as some of the more modern shows but it has it all where it counts, I was not aware of this show when it originally aired but I wish I had been as i can only imagine it was seriously ground breaking in it's style and content which would account for the awards. Definitely worth checking out.